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Nicotine Addiction, a Result of Vaping

Effective ways to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Key points

  • Some 20 percent of US high school students have vaped nicotine.
  • Many teens assume that vaping is safe, but it’s not.
  • Exercise can boost mood when dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock
Source: Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock

One of my 18-year-old patients beseeched me to write a post about vaping. He told me that he has tried to quit vaping nicotine on a few occasions and was dismayed to find that his addiction to nicotine was harder to break than his use of weed.

He explained that his nicotine withdrawal symptoms made him very irritable and that he felt that he had to inhale some more nicotine to prevent himself from lashing out. He thought he was so hooked on nicotine because it was so easy to inhale high doses through his vape pen.

Vaping involves using a device that heats a liquid, producing an aerosol that can be inhaled into the lungs. Vaping devices (also known as e-cigarettes) can appear like a pen, USB flash drive, a small tank, or cigarettes.

It is estimated that 20 percent of US high school students have vaped nicotine. Most of them start vaping because they were encouraged to do so by a friend. They continue vaping because it helps with stress, anxiety, or depression. Marijuana is another substance that is commonly vaped (Yingst, 2019).

Many teens assume that vaping is safe because it is not associated with inhaling carcinogens from smoking cigarettes. However, dangerous chemicals are aerosolized by vaping including formaldehyde, which can injure the lungs. Further, some teens start smoking cigarettes after becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping.

Nicotine Addiction

Signs of nicotine addiction include that they are unable to stop its use despite serious attempts. When they stop temporarily, they might develop physical or emotional symptoms such as strong nicotine cravings, anxiety, depression, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, insomnia, and even gastrointestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhea.

Such withdrawal symptoms typically are most intense for the first week, and then improve over the subsequent few weeks (Taylor, 2014).

In thinking about how to overcome a nicotine addiction it is useful to identify situations in which someone is triggered to use nicotine, such as boredom, stressful times, while driving or social factors.

Treatment for nicotine addiction can include the use of a nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, lozenge, or nasal spray), oral medications to reduce nicotine craving under supervision by a medical professional, and behavioral approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, meditation, and hypnosis.

There is some promising ongoing research regarding the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as an aid for smoking cessation. Often, patients benefit from a combination of medication and behavioral approaches.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may be less of an issue in adolescents as compared with adults, and therefore nicotine replacement therapy is less appropriate in this age group. Further, such therapy can cause the developing adolescent mind to become more dependent on nicotine (Arain, 2013).

When behavioral approaches are used in the treatment of nicotine addiction, an initial discussion can focus on the reasons they want to quit including their interest in being healthy while avoiding dependence on a substance to help them feel good. Patients are taught to avoid things that trigger their nicotine use.

In hypnosis, patients can be prompted to imagine two futures: One in which they have become seriously ill because of their ongoing dependence on nicotine, and another in which they are healthy because of their success with overcoming their addiction. They can be guided to make the best choice for themselves, and then congratulated for becoming free of nicotine.

Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal

Exercise can be a great way of boosting mood in dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It can be very healthy to substitute an exercise addiction (as long as exercise is not overdone) for nicotine addiction.

As appetite improves once nicotine use is stopped it is important to eat a healthy diet, rather than eating comfort foods that can cause undesired weight gain. Hypnotic imagery can be helpful in maintaining a good exercise routine and a healthy diet.

Periods of nicotine craving often last for five to seven minutes. One way to cope with such feelings is to recognize that they last only a few moments and that they can become tolerable with the employment of hypnosis relaxation techniques. In this way, a person can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, a skill that can be useful in many life arenas.

Hypnosis, meditation, and yoga can all be used to relieve the stress associated with nicotine withdrawal.


Hypnosis can be used to help overcome vaping and nicotine addiction including through its use to reinforce the reasons for quitting, and as a method to enhance coping with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.


Arain, Mariam et al. 2013. “Maturation of the adolescent brain.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 9:449–461.

Taylor, Gemma et al. 2014. “Change in mental health after smoking cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis.” British Medical Journal. 348:g1151.

Yingst, Jessica, M. et al. 2019. “Nicotine absorption during electronic cigarette use among regular users.” PLoS One. 14:e0220300.